Second-year medical student Salma Attai and first-year medical student Matthew Cobler-Lichter were part of a gardening crew at Pelion Community Garden during the UB Medical Student Day of Service.

Medical Students, Community Benefit From Day of Service

Published August 12, 2021

story by bill bruton

Incoming first-year medical students at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences enjoyed the opportunity to make improvements to the community and get to know their classmates during the seventh annual UB Medical Student Day of Service.

“I’m meeting just about all of these people for the first time. It’s been a nice way to bond. ”
Cameron DeMott
First-year medical student

A Little Gardening, a Great Deal of Mentorship

A record number of 132 students participated in the event, which took place July 31. Most were first-year students, with the rest being upperclass students.

Eight faculty and staff members also took part.

Salma Attai, a second-year medical student and one of the orientation leaders, was one of the volunteers at Pelion Community Garden at City Honors School.

Volunteers at the site removed pests and weeds, picked fruit and spread mulch, among other gardening maintenance.

She used the day to get to know some of the incoming students a little better before their official orientation.

“I’ve bonded with a few of the incoming students. I’m really passionate about mentorship, being a first-generation college and graduate student,” says Attai, a native of Williamsville, New York, who earned her undergraduate degree in biomedical sciences from UB. “To be able to illuminate the path for somebody else is really rewarding for me.”

Last year’s Day of Service didn’t take place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so she welcomed its return.

“It’s nice to be out and about with other people on such a beautiful day,” Attai says. “The opportunity to spend a Saturday in service of a community that I love and has given so much to me is also incredibly gratifying.”

Chance to Help Out, Bond With Classmates

First-year medical student Cameron DeMott performed several tasks at the Pelion Community Garden.

“It’s been a nice experience. I’m meeting just about all of these people for the first time. It’s been a nice way to bond,” says first-year medical student Cameron DeMott of Canandaigua, New York, who spent the morning weeding, removing unwanted insects from trees and bushes and picking elderberries at Pelion Community Garden.

“The vast majority of students chose to participate today,” says DeMott, who earned his bachelor’s degree in neuroscience from the University of Rochester. “I’m glad to see that a lot of people took advantage of it.”

Building Beds for Children in Need

First-year medical student Michelle Qiu relished the opportunity to make beds for the Sleep in Heavenly Peace organization.

Michelle Qiu spent the day making beds for children in need at Sleep in Heavenly Peace in Clarence, New York.

“It’s really fun. I’ve never built anything before so this is a new experience for me,” says Qiu, also from Williamsville, New York.

“I’ve never met any of my new classmates before,” says Qiu, who also earned her undergraduate degree in neuroscience from the University of Rochester. “This is definitely a good bonding experience.” 

Community Service Emphasized

The volunteers performed cleanup work at four other service project sites in the city of Buffalo:

  • Allentown Association, where students weeded and applied mulch
  • Fruit Belt Coalition, where students organized offices and gardened
  • Kevin Guest House, where students gardened
  • Macedonia Baptist Church, where students beautified the building and gardened

Participation in the Medical Student Day of Service is not mandatory, but Jacobs School medical students are required to perform 10 hours of community service — a combination of volunteer work and service learning — in each of their preclinical years.

“During their time as medical students over the next four years, there are many ways to get to know their Buffalo community and make a difference in the lives of the individuals they will serve,” says David A. Milling, MD, senior associate dean for student and academic affairs. “We have 180 extremely talented medical students who need to understand and address the social needs of the community, which will ultimately help them become better medical doctors.”

The UB Medical Student Day of Service is sponsored by the Offices of Medical Education and the John A. Wendel Endowment Fund, established by Virginia Wendel.